Madison Square

Madison Square
Savannah Under Fire archaeologists work in Madison Square, Savannah, GA, surrounded by visitors and citizens interested in our dig.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dave the Potter

An article in the Augusta Chronicle reports a new documentary is being made on a local slave potter named Dave. Pieces of pottery with "Dave" inscribed on them have been found archaeologically around Augusta.

Discovery of Jar Bring New Insight into History of Artisans who created Pottery near Augusta

Monday, January 16, 2012

Society for Historical Archaeology Blog

The Society for Historical Archaeology recently introduced a new blog, the rather obviously-named Society for Historical Archaeology Blog. Friday posts are a great summary of recent historical archaeology and should be fun for anyone interested in archaeology.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Where is the archaeology in the Unified Zoning Ordinance for Savannah-Chatham County?

The Metropolitan Planning Commission (MPC) is to be lauded for its hard work on compiling the draft of the Unified Zoning Ordinance (UZO). While parts of it are sweeping and comprehensive, at least one part needs addressing, along with serious additions and modifications. Protections for historic structures are detailed and supported by specific ordinances that outline necessary actions, compliance and penalties; all to support the preservation of Savannah-Chatham County’s historic fabric which adds to the quality of life of residents and increases the economic potential of the tourism industry. It is all the more dismaying to see that the new UZO has no such provisions for the important non-renewable archaeological sites in the community. While archaeology is mentioned occasionally, specific ordinances to protect such sites or to mitigate the damage should they be adversely affected by development are non-existent, except in the rare cases of Section 106 compliance activity. In those few cases, the projects are separate from MPC Board of Review anyway.

The present UZO draft maintains the status quo regarding Savannah-Chatham County’s important historical archaeological sites. Translated, this means that archaeological sites will continue to be obliterated at an alarming rate, a rate that only increases with improvements to the economy. Have any of the Zoning Districts or Overlay Districts considered archaeological resources, or are they all based on land use and current standing structures? Savannah-Chatham County has a large and varied assortment of archaeological sites ranging from 12,000 year old prehistoric sites to colonial sites to 19th century sites. These offer the same, and even additional opportunities as the historic standing structures provide. Why is the MPC protecting the latter and not the former? There are ordinances about what color paint and what kind of windows historic sites should have, yet wholesale destruction of archaeological sites continue unabated and unquestioned. Structures in areas designated “local historic properties” are protected from demolition, but archaeological sites in these same areas are not (3.19.2). The Historic Preservation Plans are supposed to include “a description of the historic buildings, structures, sites and objects within the proposed property” [3.19.3.i.(3)]. To do so for archaeological sites that will be in the areas requires historical research and field survey. Will that be done, or will the properties “get a pass” on identifying and protecting these existing resources? While it is easy to pawn off the responsibility of oversight to the state level, a comprehensive UZO should address these issues locally and offer the tools and mandates for true protections. Without such protections written as ordinances, activities that have adverse effects to archaeological sites will be randomly reviewed, and will come before the public piece-meal, requiring citizen watch-dogs in lieu of a competent city-county plan that takes responsibility for the resources in its domain and works actively rather than reactively to protect those resources.

Archaeological sites are not renewable. Once damaged or destroyed they cannot be restored or rehabilitated or reconstructed like a historic structure can be. Yet archaeological sites provide integrity to communities, a real sense of authenticity to our past, a chance for community pride and engagement, educational opportunities for all citizens, and a proven benefit to tourism and the economy. By failing to create ordinances to protect archaeological sites, the MPC is not only losing these opportunities now, but denying such opportunities to future generations who cannot benefit from these archaeological sites after they are destroyed.

The mentions of cultural resources or archaeology in the current UZO are basically nods to the subject with no real protections, incentives, education, or understanding. Here are just a few more examples. In Article 10 “Natural, Historic and Cultural Resources” the only time “cultural resources” is even mentioned is in the title of the article. In Section 10.4 there are buffers and setbacks for natural resources, but nothing protecting cultural ones, which often occur in similar environments.

Most archaeological sites lie undiscovered and unrecorded, thus both unappreciated and unprotected by the community whose cultural heritage they represent. They are especially vulnerable to the ravages of neglect and development activity. Communities can prevent the loss of their archaeological heritage by acknowledging and acting upon their responsibility to protect it. Indeed, many communities across the United States have implemented ordinances, regulations, and permit systems … “(Kearns and Kirkorian 1991).

Cities and counties throughout the U.S. have come to realize the responsibility and benefits in protecting the archaeological site under their stewardship. A few of the many examples include:

  • Alexandria, VA
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Albuquerque, NM
  • Beaufort County, SC
  • 10 cities and counties in Florida, including St. Augustine
  • Calvert County, Maryland
  • St. Louis, Missouri

Protection of archaeological sites can result in economic development of blighted urban areas; increased revenue streams through new tourism avenues; a source of community pride developed from an understanding of a sense of place; public participation in community history; and increased educational opportunities.

Metropolitan Planning Commission, please don’t waste this precious opportunity.

Thank you,

Rita Elliott

Education Coordinator and Research Associate

The LAMAR Institute

Savannah, GA


Kearns, Betsy and Cece Kirkorian

1991 “Protecting Sites at the Local Level: The Responsibility and the Legal Authority Towns Have to Protect Their Archaeological Resources” in Protecting the Past (George S. Smith and John E. Ehrenhard, eds.) available online at

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mystery ceramics

I have a mystery for the ceramic experts out there!

On several archaeology sites in downtown Savannah (within the bounds of the battlefield) I have a found a mysterious decoration on several ceramics. It appears to be hand painted purple. One shade of the purple is flat, the other is metallic/iridescent.

In the first example I found, the design appeared to be painted on whiteware. Unfortunately, this sherd has been sent into deep storage, and I don't have any pictures of it. The three sherds pictured below were found in the 1980s and labeled "lustrous manganese creamware" or "lustrous manganese pearlware". This decoration style has appeared on porcelain and white earthenware. The earthenware has yellow or blue tints to the glaze, or the glaze is completely white.

Can anyone identify this more specifically than "handpainted"?  Does anyone have a time frame or TPQ for this type of decoration?
Many thanks!

Sherd 1- refined earthenware. white glaze has a blue tint.

Sherd 1, showing metallic purple

back of Sherd 1

Sherd 2- refined earthenware. glaze is yellow-ish. Note there are two shades of purple present.

Sherd 3- porcelain. hand painted glaze is two shades of purple: the lighter, flat color and the darker, metallic color

Sherd 3 side view

Sherd 3

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Updating the Stiletto

We received a response to our inquiry into the Pulaski Stiletto. Angus Patterson, Curator of European Base Metals and Arms and Armour at the Victoria & Albert Museum in England, kindly called it a "slightly bizarre object." Mr. Patterson said the hilt was unusual, although the blade and tang were standard. As to the inscription, it is consistent with late 1700s/early 1800s monograms on silver.

So we learned the stiletto could date to the Revolutionary War, but still no more evidence that it was Casimir Pulaski's. Mr. Patterson also suggested another expert to ask, so stay tuned for another update. Thanks to Mr. Patterson for his help.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

more secrets in bones

Out to unearth skull’s secrets

Discovered this article on a cool blog, the Anthropologist in the Attic. Before the mystery of Casimir Pulaski's bones, there was a Spainish friar whose skull may have been found at Fort King George State Park in Darien more than 50 years ago.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pointy Stilettos

The Coastal Heritage Society recently received a very generous donation. The descendants of Revolutionary War soldier Richard Clough Anderson gave us a small knife, called a stiletto, that is attributed to Casimir Pulaski. Family oral and written histories indicate that a dying Pulaski gave a wounded Anderson his sword (and possibly the stiletto) as they were transported away from the Battle of Savannah.

Pulaski's stiletto?

Richard Clough Anderson fought for independence from January 1776 until the end of the war, serving in several Virginia Regiments. Throughout his six years of service, he was promoted from Captain to Major to Lt. Colonel. According to his pension records, he was in the battles of White Plains and Trenton (1776); Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown (1777); Monmouth (1778); the Siege of Savannah (1779); the Siege of Charleston (1780) after which he was imprisoned for nine months; and Gloucester and Yorktown (1781). He was wounded once by a lead ball in New Jersey, and a second time by a sabre during the Battle of Savannah. These facts can be established from his pension record (

Anderson family histories record even more colorful details. While Anderson was in the hospital with his first wound, he contracted small pox. "Never having any great beauty to spare, on his recovery from this attack, he came out of the hospital with the reputation of being one of the three ugliest men in the American army" (Anderson 1908: 9). He is also reported to be one of the first to surmount Spring Hill Redoubt before being stabbed in the shoulder by Captain Tawes (or Towles) and falling to the base of the trench (Anderson 1908: 10, Anderson 1879:25).

We are in the process of trying to authenticate the stiletto and its oral history. One clue is the engraved letters on each side. The script is beautiful and intricate- but what are the letters?!?  Some staff members have seen "A P." Others see "C P."


Anderson's pension record also indicates he had a son, William M. Anderson. I see "WMA" in the photograph above. What letters do you see?

More historical research will also be necessary to document the relationship between Casimir Pulaski and Anderson. Finally, we are looking at the materials and manufacture of the knife itself. Is this stiletto typical of the late 1700s? Are there modern tool marks? Were the letters engraved when the knife was made or were they added later? Only an antique metals expert will be able to determine the answer to these questions.

If anyone has insight into this mystery, please email us at

References Cited:
Anderson, Charles
1908     Ye Andersons of Virginia and some of their descendants.
Anderson, E.L.
1879     Soldier and Pioneer: A Biographical Sketch of Lt. Col. Richard C. Anderson of the Continental Army. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York.